Picks and Pans Review: Nice Big American Baby

updated 03/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Judy Budnitz

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Village Voice cartoonist Judy Budnitz returns to her quirky roots with this collection of short stories set in warped landscapes where reality shape-shifts in unexpected ways. Her best stories challenge the bond between mother and child: In "Where We Come From," a pregnant woman hoping to sneak into the U.S. gestates her baby for years, until she resembles a spider with "limbs like sticks." When she finally makes it, she delivers a walking, talking "nice Big American baby" only to lose him as she is sent back across the border alone. In "Miracle," a white man and his white wife are shocked when a blue-eyed, golden haired son the color of obsidian emerges from her womb. The father blames her cravings for "chocolate and burnt toast," but the mother cherishes her changeling until his skin becomes perfectly pink. Budnitz's surreal tales leave us questioning the nature of familial love; with each curious twist, the reader is left a little uncomfortable—and wanting to read more.


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